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Flamm urges adoption of Universal Vote by Mail

Matthew Flamm and Cary Shepherd have released a white paper urging the Illinois General Assembly to adopt Universal Vote-By-Mail (“Universal VBM”). Under a Universal VBM system, every registered voter is sent a ballot two or three weeks before Election Day. The voter can return the ballot by mail or drop it in a secure drop box at a library or other local government building.

Illinois law allows voters to vote in person at their precinct polling place on Election Day, in person at early voting sites during the weeks before Election Day, or by mail. Every County Clerk and Board of Election Commissioners must maintain and pay for all three systems for every election, from municipal primaries to Presidential general elections.

Universal VBM would decrease the cost of running Illinois elections by more than $10 million per year. There would be no need to hire thousands of election judges and other election-day personnel, nor would there be a need to purchase and maintain voting machines and to deliver them to polling places. There would be only one method of counting ballots.

Universal VBM has been popular and free of serious problems in the three states where it has been implemented. Turnout has increased significantly. Voters can research their votes before voting. Because there is only one system, election authorities are able to determine quickly and easily whether a voter has already voted. It would be difficult for any voter to vote twice, since one ballot is sent to each registered voter.

Universal VBM would eliminate waiting lines in high-turnout elections. Instead, voters would complete their ballots at home and at their convenience.

The benefits of Universal VBM would be most noticeable in lower-turnout elections. “The turnout in the 2015 local government election was only 20% of the turnout in the 2012 Presidential election, but the cost of running both elections was virtually identical” said Flamm. For that reason, Flamm and Shepherd propose that Universal VBM be tried on an experimental basis for the 2017 local government elections.

“Unlike some states which have restricted voting rights, Illinois has been a leader in encouraging voter participation,” said Shepherd. “Universal VBM lets voters consider their votes more carefully and cast their votes at their convenience, at a fraction of the cost taxpayers now pay.”

To read the full paper, click on this link.

Matthew Flamm is a member of the Chicago law firm of Flamm, Teibloom & Stanko, Ltd. He has handled election law matters before the Illinois Appellate Court and the Illinois State Board of Elections and has been a candidate in three low-turnout elections. Cary Shepherd is a law student at the University of Chicago Law School and a recent graduate of the University of Illinois. For more information, contact Matthew Flamm at


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